Law Firm at Center of Pandora Helped Global Rich Hide Money

(Bloomberg) — Two decades ago, Jaime Aleman was looking to re-establish Panama’s reputation as a stable business center following the U.S.’s 1989 invasion.

So, the Duke-educated attorney brought together heads of the country’s top law firms to back legislation inspired by Liechtenstein’s friendly rules on private foundations. The story, as told by Aleman in his autobiography, “Honesty is Priceless,” was the beginning of an offshore-entity boom, in which world leaders, celebrities and more used hundreds of thousands of shell companies in Panama to hide their assets and take advantage of accounting and tax loopholes.

Now, his law firm — Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee, or Alcogal — is at the center of an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for creating thousands of offshore companies that stashed money in tax havens for politicians and public figures. In sheer size, the leak of those financial records, known as the Pandora Papers, eclipses that of the Panama Papers in 2016.

“Over the past three decades, Alcogal has become a magnet for the rich and powerful from Latin America and beyond seeking to hide wealth offshore,” the report said. “The firm acted as corporate middleman for more than 160 politicians and public officials.”

The law firm’s clients included Jordanian King Abdullah II, former presidents of Panama, the president of Ecuador and a presidential candidate in Honduras, according to the report. Almost half of the politicians whose names appear in the leaked records and nearly 2 million of the 11.9 million documents in the Pandora Papers were tied to Alcogal. In total, ICIJ tallied 14,000 entities in Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other tax havens created with Alcogal’s support as part of efforts to hide money away from public scrutiny for some 15,000 clients over 25 years.

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Source: Bloomberg Quint